My loyal companions
The journals I’ve kept for the last forty-two years stand on my bookcase here in Barcelona, row after row of elderly but upright soldiers who have withstood earthquakes, tornados, a life-threatening disease and thirteen moves over several continents.
Altogether there are more than a hundred notebooks in various shapes, thicknesses, qualities of paper and differing states of wear. Some still look sturdy, while others made of less strong material look worn out from having been dragged all over the place.
I take my notebooks with me, all the time. They are loyal companions to whom I confide my thoughts in airport lounges, on planes, in restaurants and cafés, in hotel lobbies, on benches in parks, in doctor’s waiting rooms and at my writing desk.
I started keeping a journal when I was about ten years old and decorated those notebooks with my drawings and collages of photos I tore out of my mother’s fashion and travel magazines. They had one overriding topic: my intense desire to see the world, to flee a restricted existence in the far too quiet suburb of Rotterdam.
When I did leave the Netherlands to study French in Nice, I left those journals behind. I wanted to explore the world unburdened by ballast.
In Nice I wrote in French, even though my written grasp of that language was far from perfect. But foreign words don’t have the closeness of those in the language I was brought up in and provide me with a linguistic blanket, cushioning the feelings my native language evokes. Fortunately, those journals never made it across the Atlantic when I moved to Philadelphia.
So the first notebook on my shelf starts in the summer of 1978, when I travelled from Philadelphia after having finished my studies in communications to Mexico where I was going to study creative writing in a small town four hours from Mexico City.
I never reread what I’ve written; when I finish one notebook I move on to the next.
I’m always in a hurry; even when there is no rush I have the feeling that there is so much to do.
But things have changed. Because of the Covid pandemic I don’t travel anymore, and here in Barcelona I stay indoors much more than before. Being forced to stay put has given me a sense of calm. Now the time has come to read those notebooks starting with the first one and as of next week I will share what I encountered with you.
Let me rephrase that, I’m going to share what I deem suitable with you. Because it could be that more than just a lack of time that kept me from looking at them again; I may have avoided reading them out of fear that what I wrote really isn’t all that interesting.
So even though there are many journals there’s no guarantee that they will result in an equally substantial amount of letters to my imaginary friend.